Wednesday, 1 July 2020

#bookreview: The SEA is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia

The Sea Is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast AsiaThe Sea Is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast Asia by Jaymee Goh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I suppose if I like half of an anthology, the anthology is a good one. I've been trying to find a way to review this more critically, but it just seems that I can't.

I suppose the dissonance comes from several things, the first of which primarily stems from the lack of steam in this version of steampunk. There's a quite a bit folklore/magic, sometimes used in combination with the technology; where it seems to grate (or at least confuse) are the bits where it seems to be substituted for the gears and clockwork. Either that or I'm not quite getting what they're trying to say.

The second is really a follow-on thought that a lot of SEAsian folklore tends towards horror and the macabre, which isn't what I enjoy reading. So whilst I enjoyed some of them, they turned out a little darker than I expected.

The stories almost all focus on a colonial past, on that space where history could have probably gone either way. This, I suppose, is already defined in the Introduction:
It was, and still is, imperative that we have volumes dedicated to our own voices, projects not of postcolonial melancholia, but decolonial determination. Our psyches cry for justice for lost names, lost stories, lost histories, all lost to globalized, systemic racism, lost to imperial dreams imposed upon us for too long. In the absence of time machines to recover them, we turn to re-creating, and creating anew. Thus, we use steampunk to have that conversation with our histories, our hearts and dreams.
I suppose i should end this updated review with some of the stories I enjoyed.

- The Last Aswang, Alessa Hinlo
-The Unmaking of the Cuadro Amoroso, Kate Osias
-Working Woman, Olivia Ho
-On the Consequence of Sound, Timothy Dimacali
-Spider Here, Robert Liow

View all my reviews

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